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A Companion to Science and Engineering Indicators 2006.
 NSB 06-02 | February 2006

America's Pressing Challenge — Building a Stronger Foundation

Letter of Transmittal

Dear Colleague:

As part of our mandate from Congress, the National Science Board supervises the collection of a very broad set of quantitative information about the U.S. science, engineering and technology, and every 2 years publishes the data and trends in science and technology in our Science and Engineering Indicators (Indicators) report. On occasion, the data reveal trends that raise important policy concerns that the Board brings to the attention of the President, Congress, and the public in the form of a "companion" policy statement to the Indicators report. The 2006 volume of Indicators reinforces the Board's continuing and growing concern with the condition of U.S. precollege education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

It is absolutely essential for our Nation's long-term prosperity and security that we remain a world leader in science and technology. Precollege STEM education is the foundation of that leadership—it must receive our highest priority as a Nation. Many reports by eminent bodies over decades have expressed concern and offered solutions to observed failures in our STEM education system. Despite these admirable efforts in both sounding the alarm and recommending solutions, our Nation continues to slip further behind in the science and mathematics achievement of U.S. students relative to international peers. The intractability of this widely recognized systemic failure is alarming.

This National Science Board Companion Piece, America's Pressing Challenge—Building a Stronger Foundation, identifies priorities for ensuring a world-class education in STEM fields for all Americans:

  • strong public support for the value of STEM education for all students and citizens,
  • a high quality teaching workforce,
  • appropriate opportunities to learn for all students
  • effective guidance counseling on STEM education and careers, and
  • assessment tools that reinforce learning in STEM fields.

Our Nation must devote the necessary resources now to revitalize our precollege STEM education system. We cannot wait for a new Sputnik episode to energize our population to rise to this challenge—we must recognize the existing crisis and take the necessary actions. We urge all Americans to join us in a national commitment to a world-class STEM education, the foundation for future U.S. science and technology-based prosperity and security.


Warren M. Washington

National Science Board.